On Wednesday evening, Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks saw a disastrous 2023-24 season come to a blissful end with a road demolition at the hands of the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA Play-In Tournament. While they weren't exactly championship favorites heading into the year, the expectation was that the Hawks would be much improved with a full offseason under head coach Quin Snyder in which Young and running mate Dejounte Murray could finally find some synergy.

Not to be.

One of the very few bright spots for the Hawks this year was the play of third year power forward Jalen Johnson, who was inserted into the starting lineup following the trade of John Collins to the Utah Jazz in the 2023 offseason and showed immense potential, even generating a fringe Most Improved Player campaign and establishing himself as undoubtedly the third (perhaps second?) best player on the Hawks roster.

The only downside of the year for Johnson was his frequent injury troubles, as the former Duke Blue Devil missed extensive time with a wrist surgery and multiple ankle sprains throughout the campaign.

During Friday's team exit interviews, Johnson got one hundred percent honest on the mental challenge of navigating those setbacks amidst what was such a strong campaign.

“Yeah, it was tough just dealing with that, when I did have a little flow going… then having to sit out a couple games, it was tough,” said Johnson, per the Atlanta Hawks' official team account on X, the social media platform formerly referred to as Twitter. “…but it helped build me. Just give me some resilience, give me some more mental toughness in that aspect. But yeah, it's tough dealing with that, especially when you've got things flowing, you're in a little rhythm, but you've just got to bounce back from that type of stuff, because it's part of the nature of the game.”

What is Jalen Johnson's ceiling?

As of April 2024, Jalen Johnson is perhaps the only name on the Hawks roster–yes, including Trae Young–that is absolutely safe from trade discussions this upcoming offseason, which certainly figures to be a consequential one for the future direction of the franchise.

As things stand right now, Johnson is probably around the level of an Aaron Gordon, a versatile Swiss Army knife who can do everything on a basketball court at an adequate, if not great (yet), level. However, at just 22 years old, Johnson's combination of size, athleticism, court vision, ball-handling, and an improved outside jump shot have fans envisioning the talented forward as potentially a Ben Simmons-gone-right sort of player, someone who truly has no weaknesses on the basketball court and can be adaptable to any system.

Johnson's presence on the roster is perhaps the only beacon of hope for a Hawks' fanbase that has seen their team fall steadily downhill since Atlanta's shocking run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2021 season, which is looking more and more like an aberration with each passing year.